Award-winning White House correspondent and presidential historian
Kenneth T. Walsh’s latest book,
Celebrity in Chief
A history of the presidents and the culture of stardom,
With a New Epilogue on Hillary and “The Donald”
A comprehensive look at the history of America’s presidents
as “celebrities in chief”
since the beginning of the Republic.
by Kenneth T. Walsh
With the advent of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as presidential nominees, the examination of the role of celebrity culture in the White House takes on a fresh appeal.
This book, by award-winning White House correspondent and presidential historian Kenneth T. Walsh, takes a detailed and comprehensive look at the history of America’s presidents as “celebrities in chief” since the beginning of the Republic. Walsh makes the point that modern presidents need to be celebrities and build on their fame in order to propel their agendas and rally public support for themselves as national leaders so that they can get things done.
Combining incisive historical analysis with a journalist’s eye for detail, this book looks back to such presidents as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln as the forerunners of contemporary celebrity presidents. It examines modern presidents including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, and Theodore Roosevelt, each of whom qualified as a celebrity in his own time and place. The book also looks at presidents who fell short in their star appeal, such as George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush, Richard Nixon, and Lyndon Johnson, and explains why their star power was lacking.
Among the special features of the book are detailed profiles of the presidents and how they measured up or failed as celebrities; an historical analysis of America’s popular culture and how presidents have played a part in it, from sports and television to movies and the news media; the role of first ladies; and a portfolio of fascinating photos illustrating the intersection of the presidency with popular culture. An update looking at Hillary and "the Donald" puts contemporary politics in perspective with the evolution of presidential celebrity.
Paperback: ISBN: 978-1-13823-577-9
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Published by Routledge - Taylor & Francis Group
Julian E. Zelizer, author of The Fierce Urgency of Now
“Ken Walsh brings his keen eye to one of the defining aspects of the modern presidency. In this entertaining and informative book, Walsh provides a fascinating look at the ways in which celebrity culture has shaped presidential politics in recent decades. The book is sure to contribute to debates about the future of the White House and the health of American democracy.”
—Julian E. Zelizer, author of The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society
Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets"
Obama sees self as national 'role model,' but Clintons will outshine his celebrity
March 11, 2015
A new book about presidents becoming celebrities reveals that President Obama believes himself to be a "role model" who can use his celebrity status to push his agenda, notably his switch to supporting same sex marriage.
In Celebrity In Chief, by longtime U.S. News White House correspondent Kenneth T. Walsh, a key aide said that the White House believes that Obama's support for gay marriage and where he aired it will end up being the turning point on the issue.
"His interview with TV reporter Robin Roberts about his evolution on gay marriage was likely instrumental in changing people's minds," wrote Walsh, who then quoted a top Obama aide: "Maybe 20 years from now it will be seen as a seminal moment."
Walsh, who has personally covered every president since Ronald Reagan, said that Obama has an outsized image of himself. "Obama sees himself as a role model," writes Walsh, adding: "He believes that it's helpful for him to talk about his unique background to educate the country about different issues, such as race and staying in school. So from time to time he will 'reveal himself' for a higher purpose."
While Walsh dubbed Obama "the biggest superstar to ever occupy the White House," he suggested that the president could be lost in the dust if Hillary Clinton succeeds him.
Well, her and Bubba. "Bill Clinton could overshadow her or at least compete with her for attention," Walsh warns. "The former president is a superstar in his own right, one of the best-known people in the world and one of the most popular Democrats in the country. If she runs, it would be the first time that a celebrity couple without peer has sought the White House."
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist
Introduction: The Rise of the Concept of Stardom and the Culture of Celebrity
1. Forerunners of the Modern Celebrity Presidents: Washington to Cleveland
2. Theodore Roosevelt: The Strenuous Life
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt: Public Advocate
4. John F. Kennedy: Glitter and Cool
5. Ronald Reagan: The Role of the Century
6. Bill Clinton: Pop Icon
7. Barack Obama: Making History and Taking New Paths
8. Second Billing: From Truman to the Bushes
9. First Ladies: Partners in Celebrity
10. Presidents and Television: Primal Forces
11. Presidents and the News Media: Tug of War
12. Presidents and the Movies: Cinema Stars
13. Presidents and Reading: Gravitas Alert
14. Presidents and Sports: Links to Everyday America
15. Presidents and Music: Sweet and Sour Notes
16. Presidents as Trend Setters and Trend Spotters: Food, Fashion, Pets, and More
17. Callow vs. Consequential Celebrity: All Stardom is Not Equal
Epilogue: The Rise of The Donald and Hillary: Riding Celebrity to New Highs and Lows
September 30, 2015
Book Discussion on Celebrity in Chief
Kenneth Walsh appeared at the Fall for the Book festival in Fairfax, Virginia, to discuss his book, Celebrity in Chief.
March 6, 2015
HOST - Peter Slen
Ken Walsh talked about his book Celebrity in Chief: A History of the Presidents and the Culture of Stardom, in which he explores the celebrity culture surrounding presidential politics.
Published on May 20, 2013
Kenneth Walsh, chief White House correspondent for U.S. News & World Report, presents a unique perspective on life inside the bubble of the White House in his new book "Prisoners of the White House."
Walsh has covered five presidents, beginning with Ronald Reagan. He continues to provide insight into the Obama White House and the world of presidential campaigns.
Guest: Kenneth Walsh
Date: Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 2:30 PM
Location: Knight TV Studio